Experts predict bigger galleries, a stronger connection to the outdoors and an end to the expansion juggernaut
As US art institutions consider how they welcome visitors and guard their health in a vastly changed environment, the coronavirus pandemic is spurring a deeper rethinking of future museum design.
After a nationwide shutdown in March, many museums have gingerly reopened with stringent social distancing rules that profoundly affect the flow of people through entrances and galleries. With visitors often limited to 25% of usual capacity and no clear timeline for a Covid-19 vaccine, museums are opening a conversation about longer-term changes to their buildings. Some ideas have sprung from stopgap safety measures adopted since reopening, while others were germinating even before the pandemic.
Preventing bottlenecks as visitors file in and out of a museum, six feet apart, is an immediate priority. “You want the option of opening a new entrance and closing another one depending on the flow of traffic,” says Ron Elad, a principal in the Los Angeles office of the engineering firm Buro Happold. “You will not necessarily use all entrances at the same time because then you’ll have an uncontrolled influx.”
The British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, who recently unveiled his design for a new home for the Princeton University Art Museum, says the pandemic reinforced his notion that “people should be able to come in and out easily”: the ground floor boasts six doorways for entering and exiting.